Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jonathan Edwards: Part 3

This is part three of a four (or five) part series on the life of Jonathan Edwards. If you would like to read the entire paper including endnotes click here..

Edwards’ Ministry and Life in Northampton

After graduating from Yale in 1722, Edwards took an interim pastorate in New York City for about eight months. In the Spring of 1723, Jonathan reluctantly left New York at the request of his father. Timothy Edwards had arranged for Jonathan to pastor a church in Bolton, Connecticut just fifteen miles from East Windsor. After a few months in Bolton, the younger Edwards was offered a position as a tutor at Yale. He accepted and tutored there for a couple of years. While he was serving as a tutor Jonathan began to sense a call to the pastorate. It is clear from his personal notebooks during this time that his ambition was to be more than just a local pastor; rather “He was determined to be an international figure.” Eventually, in the fall of 1726, Jonathan was called to assist his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, as a pastor in Northampton. A few months later he married Sarah Pierrepont on July 28, 1727. In 1729, Solomon Stoddard died and Jonathan was called to become the full pastor of the Northampton Congregation.

As the pastor of one of the largest congregations in New England at this time, Jonathan found himself in a very powerful position. Jonathan viewed this position of authority as significant and was serious about his vocation. Edwards thought that the best way to fulfill his duties in Northampton and in Christendom at large was to use his intellectual gifts. This meant that Edwards would give himself to study for upwards of thirteen hours per day. In order to maximize his study time “he declined to make pastoral calls on his parishioners” except “in cases of sicknesses and emergencies,” he “turned over the management of the house and oversight of the husbandry to Sarah,” and he made sure that Sarah had an “African woman slave” to help around the house.

During Jonathan’s tenure at Northampton, the congregation experienced two powerful moves of God. The first began in 1734 and continued through the following year. By the following year Jonathan had assumed that “nearly everyone in Northampton had shown hopeful signs of saving grace.” As God began to move amidst his congregation, Jonathan picked up his pen and began to write. He had his account of this work published, and in 1737 this work gained Edwards the international attention that he desired. However, after publishing the work, Edwards began to have serious doubts about whether people had truly been converted or not. These doubts would eventually lead to the publication of Religious Affections in 1746. However, before Religious Affections was written there was yet another powerful move of God in New England.

This second move of God took place in 1741. This time the move of God was not limited just to the Northampton area, but spread throughout all of New England. It seemed to follow on the heels of the preaching of George Whitefield. The entire New England area was experiencing a powerful awakening; so much so, that “ecstatic experiences” and physical manifestations soon became common place in the land. However, the downside of these unique manifestations was that “Parishioners were attempting to outdo each other in enthusiasm, spreading false impression that the more violent the emotions and the more vehement the expressions of zeal the greater the true piety.” Edwards responded in a much more seasoned way than during the first move of God by encouraging his people that “great excitements were not essential to true spirituality—even if they were compatible with it.”

Within two years of this second move of God, controversy was astir in the Northampton congregation. A group of young men in Edwards’ congregation were passing around sexually inappropriate material and making harassing comments to the young women in the congregation. When Edwards found out about it, he read a list of names of the people involved in the incident before the church and asked them to report to his house. Regretfully though, he did not specify between those who were guilty and those who were merely being called as witnesses to the event. Edwards handling of this event was tragic and it was the beginning of the end for any kind of effective ministry in Northampton.

By 1750, Edwards was dismissed from his pastorate in Northampton for seeking to change the church’s long held practice on communion and for “repudiating the half-way covenant.” Edwards’ grandfather had viewed communion as a converting ordinance and in his zeal for evangelism had allowed every one to partake of the elements. Edwards sought to limit communion to those who could “produce the outward signs of regeneration, including a heartfelt profession.” In regards to baptism, Edwards was proposing that Stoddard’s practice be changed and that only the children of professing members could be baptized. These two issues led to his dismissal from Northampton and his eventual relocation to Stockbridge.

Commentaries and the Gospel of Mark

This is the second post in a series on New Testament commentaries. If you are wondering which commentaries to consult on the Gospel of Mark the faculty at Denver Seminary suggest the following.

Those marked with an * are especially Recommended by Denver
(The statements in parenthesis are mine and not those of Denver Seminary)

France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark (NIGTC). G.R.: Eerdmans, 2002. (This commentary series does an excellent job dealing with the Greek text. In my opinion, this is a good commentary to purchase if you already have one on Mark and are looking to acquire a second)

*Guelich, R. A. Mark 1-8:26 (WBC). Dallas: Word, 1989; and Evans, C. A. Mark 8:27-16:20 (WBC). Nashville: Nelson, 2001.

Gundry, R. H. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. G.R.: Eerdmans, 1993.

*Edwards, J. R. The Gospel according to Mark (PNTC). G.R. Eerdmans, 2002.

Hooker, M. D. The Gospel according to Saint Mark (BNTC). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991.

Lane, W. L. The Gospel according to Mark (NICNT). G.R.: Eerdmans, 1974.

Marcus, J. Mark 1-8 (AB). NY: Doubleday, 2000.

Witherington, B., III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. G.R.: Eerdmans, 2001.

*Garland, D. Mark (NIVAC). G.R.: Zondervan, 1996.

Kernaghan, R. J. Mark (IVPNTC). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2007.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Looking for a Commentary?

Have you ever wondered what the major commentaries are for each book of the Bible? Denver Seminary has put together a list highlighting some of the commentaties they believe to be most helpful for each book of the Bible. Over the next several days I plan on posting their suggestions (along with my suggestions and comments) for each book of the New Testament. Today, I will begin by highligting their suggestions on the Gospel of Matthew.

(NOTE THOSE THAT ARE MARKED WITH AN * are the ones that Denver recommends the most. In other words, consider purchsing these at ETS)

Davies, W. D. and D. C. Allison, Jr. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St. Matthew (ICC, rev.), 3 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988-97.

*Hagner, D. A. Matthew (WBC), 2 vols. Dallas: Word, 1993-95.

Nolland, J. The Gospel of Matthew (NIGTC). G.R.: Eerdmans, 2005.

Blomberg, C. L. Matthew (NAC). Nashville: Broadman, 1992.

Carson, D. A. Matthew, in EBC, ed. F. E. Gaebelein, vol. 8. G.R.: Zondervan, 1984.
(D.A. Carson is an excellent commentator, however, the format for the EBC is such that this commentary is not as in depth as his other works. If you are just wanting a base understanding of the text without much discussion of the secondary literature or grammatical issues then this is a good starting place. But if you are planning to teach or preach from Matthew you should probably consult this along with one or two other commentaries.)

*France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT). G.R.: Eerdmans, 2007

*Keener, C. S. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. G.R.: Eerdmans, 1999.

Green, M. The Message of Matthew (BST). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.

Keener, C. S. Matthew (NTC). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

*Wilkins, M. J. Matthew (NIVAC). G.R.: Zondervan, 2004.

Speaking of Jesus in the Workplace and Relationships...

What does it mean to be bold as a Christian? Is it just a personality trait that some possess and others do not? No, but does that mean that every evening we are out knocking on doors and seeking to share the gospel with people? Not necessarily. So what does it look like from 8-6 in the business world to be a bold Christian? Some Christians do not even consider this issue for fear of the repercussions it will bring. Others think it means constantly talking about Jesus, but give little thought to truly getting to know their coworkers as real people. The whole area of boldness and evangelism is a cause for much guilt among many sincere Christians. There are sincere Christians who know that they should and really want to talk with their friends and coworkers about the gospel, but either for lack of courage, know-how, or fear they choose not to. John Piper addresses some of these issues in the following three minute question and answer session.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jonathan Edwards: Part 2

This is part 2 in a series on the life of Jonathan Edwards. To read the entire article or to see endnotes click here.

Academic Pursuits and Spiritual Wrestlings

At the age of thirteen, Jonathan showed significant academic promise in that he had already mastered the required languages for attending college. He thus left his immediate family to attend school at the institution that would eventually become known as Yale. As a student at Yale, Jonathan excelled academically but had a difficult time making friends with his peers. Part of Edwards’ social problems can be attributed to the fact that he was “undergoing the most intense spiritual journey of his life” and the immaturity and immorality of his fellow students was appalling to him. Edwards’ spiritual struggle was over the state of his own soul. His academic interests and pursuits had led him to question some of the very doctrines that seemed foundational to his faith, namely God’s total sovereignty. Edwards eventually had a significant intellectual and spiritual breakthrough in this area and was able to view God as absolutely just in “eternally disposing of men, according to his sovereign pleasure.”

In addition to Edwards’ “spiritual breakthrough,” his time at Yale proved to be extremely formative. As a student and later as a tutor he grew in his passion for seeking out knowledge. This led him to read widely while at Yale and seriously interact with the main philosophers and scientists of his day. This was a discipline that Edwards would continue throughout his life. In particular, Edwards was influenced by the writings of Isaac Newton and John Locke. One of the main things that drove this pursuit of acquiring knowledge for Edwards was his view of God. In other words, for Edwards any truth that he was able to find in philosophy or science ultimately was put there by God as a sign of “higher spiritual realities.” Edwards was eager to study the observable world and to bring it into a codified system. For Edwards, “everything [in the universe and the codified system] was a symbol pointing either to the need for redemption or to some aspect of God’s character and the redemptive love of Christ.” The key for Edwards to unlocking the mysteries of the universe was not found ultimately in reason or experience alone, but in the Scriptures. This understanding of God and the world, that he began to develop more fully while at Yale, would permeate his writings and sermons for the duration of his ministry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Biographical Sketch on Jonathan Edwards: Part One

This is the first in a series of posts from a paper I recently wrote on the life of Jonathan Edwards. For those who are interested in reading the paper in its entirety or are interested in seeing the footnotes click here.

Introduction
Jonathan Edwards is known as one of the most prominent theologians and philosophers of the colonial time period. An obvious testament to his intellectual, philosophical, and theological prowess is that his works are still being studied and debated three centuries after his death. However, many people who are familiar with Edwards are only familiar with him as a theologian and thus there is a temptation to treat him as a transcendent figure outside of any real historical setting. The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of his life by examining the historical time period in which he lived and some of the key events that shaped him as a person. As we better understand Edwards as a man who lived in a real historical context it will lead us to better understand his writings and thus should enable us to more properly assess what can be “appropriated” from his works, into our current setting, and what is “extraneous and nonessential.”
Childhood
Edwards was born on October 5, 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut into a family with a rich ministerial background. His father (Timothy) was a Harvard trained clergyman and his mother (Esther) was the daughter of one of the most powerful preachers in the Connecticut River Valley. Edwards grew up as the only son in a family with eleven children; he had four older and six younger sisters. Both his mother and father seemed to have a vibrant faith in God and sought to instill this into their children. In addition to—or as a means of—instilling their faith into their children, Timothy and Esther placed a priority on education and the rigorous training of the mind, especially for Jonathan. This area could have been overlooked in Jonathan’s young development because he grew up in a time of war and not one of peace. However, Timothy Edwards, even in the midst of serving as a chaplain during Queen Anne’s War, made sure to give attention to helping develop Jonathan’s intellect even if this simply meant encouraging Esther from afar in her labor of schooling Jonathan.

When Timothy Edwards returned from the war, God began to move in powerful ways through his ministry at East Windsor. During this awakening, we get our first glimpse into the remarkable spiritual capacities of Jonathan. Even as a nine year old, the young boy was so impacted by what God was doing that for months “he prayed secretly five times a day, spoke much of religion to other boys, and organized prayer meetings with them…He and his schoolmates ‘built a booth in a swamp, in a very secret and retired place, for a place of prayer.” However, his behavior was short lived and this experience later became one of the impetuses that drove him to understand the nature of true conversion.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Greek in a Week?

I know that at least one of my readers has a heart to return to the para-church ministry he is involved in and, among other things, teach Greek. If there is anyone else who is either considering learning Greek in an intensive modular setting or who has thought about teaching Greek in an intensive setting you might find the following article helpful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Graeme Goldsworhty Resources...

I recently posted a link to an article by Graeme Goldsworthy on how Christians should view the Old Testament. For those who are interested in learning more about this I would suggest the following three books that he has written. The first book is called "According to Plan" and can be ordered by clicking here. The second book is called "Gospel and Kingdom" and can be ordered by clicking here. The third book is one of my favorite books and is called "Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture." In this book, Goldsworthy shows how a Christ-centered hermeneutic is important when preaching the Old Testament. If you are wanting a very simple and straight forward explanation of Goldsworthy's thesis I would suggest "God's Big Picture" by Vaughn Roberts . This book is an easy read but not as in depth as Goldsworthy. While Goldsworthy's books are more in depth they are fairly straight forward and also easy to read.

Jonathan Edwards...

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to write a paper on the life of Jonathan Edwards. In preparation for writing the paper I read the excellent biography by George Marsden called Jonathan Edwards: A Life. Over the next few days, I hope to post the paper as a multiple-part series. However, if you would like to receive the paper, in its entirety with footnotes, as a PDF file leave a comment and your email address and I will email you a copy of the paper.

Jonathan Edwards: A Life

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Seminary Lectures Online For Free...

Reformed Theological Seminary has posted the audio lectures for several of their classes online for free. Click here for more information.

(HT: David Mathis at Desiring God)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Does God Know?

What exactly does God know? Does He only know events that have happened? Does He know the future? Bruce Ware has written the following article addressing these questions:
What does our great God know? In a word: everything! Psalm 147:5 declares: � Great is our Lord, and abundant in power, his understanding is beyond measure.� From the smallest and most intimate details of our lives (e.g., Ps 139:1-4; Luke 12:6-7) to the mysteries of the universe (Job 38-41) and the course of human affairs (Isa 46:8-11), God knows everything that can be known. And because God IS truth (Exod 34:6; John 1:14), all that he knows, he knows rightly and accurately (i.e., he truly does know the truth). God has no misperceptions or faulty understandings; he has no biases and he suffers from no limited perspectives. All of the hindrances we face as finite and, yes, fallen human beings in endeavoring to know the truth rightly are never and in no respect problems for God. His perspective is the True Perspective, and his understanding always is True Understanding. He knows all that can be known, and he knows it exactly rightly�every time, and in every way, for everything that can be known. This is what our great God knows.

A significant disagreement has occurred in recent years over the particular question of whether God knows the future exhaustively and in exacting detail... (click here to read the entire article)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Quote of the Day

"Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a saint; and he who doubts it does not know what a saint or a man is."
--Blaise Pascal, Pensees, #508

Friday, September 7, 2007

What is the Gospel?

What is the gospel? Is it four laws? Is it the Romans Road? Is it loving Jesus with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength? Is it the ethical commands of Jesus? D.A. Carson explores some key characteristics of the gospel in the following article:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-19)
Many have commented on the fact that the church in the western world is going through a time of remarkable fragmentation. This fragmentation extends to our understanding of the gospel. For some Christians, "the gospel" is a narrow set of teachings about Jesus and his death and resurrection which, rightly believed, tip people into the kingdom. After that, real discipleship and personal transformation begin, but none of that is integrally related to “the gospel.” This is a far cry from the dominant New Testament emphasis that understands “the gospel” to be the embracing category that holds much of the Bible together, and takes Christians from lostness and alienation from God all the way through conversion and discipleship to the consummation, to resurrection bodies, and to the new heaven and the new earth...(Click here to continue reading)

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Idol Worship and Postmodernism...

Tim Keller has written a helpful article on the sin of idolatry in our postmodern culture. The following is an excerpt from the article:

When I first began reading through the Bible I looked for some unifying themes. I concluded that there are many and that if we make just one theme the theme (such as ‘covenant’ or ‘kingdom’) we run the danger of reductionism. However, one of the main ways to read the Bible is as the ages-long struggle between true faith and idolatry. In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in God’s name (Gen 1:26­–28). Paul understands humanity’s original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God...and worshipped and served created things rather than the creator”(Rom 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order. (Click here to read the whole thing)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A.W. Tozer....

One of my favorite authors from the 20th century is A.W. Tozer. The following chapter from the Knowledge of the Holy is still one of the best extra-biblical things I have ever read:

Prayer
O, Lord God Almighty, not the God of the philosophers and the wise but the God of the prophets and apostles; and better than all, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may I express Thee unblamed?
They that know Thee not may call upon Thee as other than Thou art, and so worship not Thee but a creature of their own fancy; therefore enlighten our minds that we may know Thee as Thou art, so that we may perfectly love Thee and worthily praise Thee. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God (click here to continue reading)



Suggested Reading....

For those who are looking for a way to help provide some discipline to their personal reading I might suggest the following plan by Mark Dever and Michael Thate. They have put together a four year reading plan that covers some classic works by Christian authors. I have included their suggestions for September and October of year one below:

September (B. B. Warfield):

Year One: Warfield, Revelation and Inspiration (vol. 1 of his complete works)
Year Two: Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (vol. 2)
Year Three: Warfield, Calvin and Calvinism (vol. 5)
Year Four: Warfield, Studies in Theology (vol. 9)

October (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones):
Year One: Iain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years (1899 � 1939) and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith (1939 � 1981)
Year Two: Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures
Year Three: Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Year Four: Lloyd-Jones, Great Doctrines of the Bible: God the Father, God the Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and Last Things

(To See the Whole List Click Here)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Testimony of God's Sovereignty

The following excerpt from a sermon that John Piper preached back in 1994 should serve as a helpful introduction to the following video:

I have never heard anyone say, "The deepest and rarest and most satisfying joys of my life have come in times of extended ease and earthly comfort." Nobody says that. It isn't true. What's true is what Samuel Rutherford said when he was put in the cellars of affliction: "The Great King keeps his wine there" -- not in the courtyard where the sun shines. What's true is what Charles Spurgeon said: "They who dive in the sea of affliction bring up rare pearls."

***
I still have not figured out how to turn off the links at the end of the video. I do not suggest clicking on them because I have no control over the content that they link to.

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

N.T. Wright on the Theology of Romans...

I have been extremely busy lately and thus have not been very good about posting on this blog. One of the projects that has currently been occupying my time is a paper on Romans 3:21-26. One of the scholars whose works I have been interacting with is N.T. Wright. As most people know N.T. Wright is one of the most prolific New Testament scholars today. However, there are some major concerns in traditional Evangelical circles that Wright has missed the mark considerably when it comes to the doctrine of justification. In fact, John Piper has recently finished a book offering a critique of Wright's understanding of justification. For those who are wanting to more fully understand Wright's own position, before they read a critique of it, I would suggest the following two online articles:

Article 1: "Romans and the Theology of Paul" (see the following excerpt)

A JEWISH THEOLOGY for the Gentile world, and a welcome for Gentiles designed to take the Jewish world jealous. That, I suggest, is what Paul offered his Roman readers, and I suspect it puzzled them as much as it puzzles us, though perhaps in different ways. This paper addresses these puzzles by means of a theological reading of the letter; that is, a reading of the letter drawing out its main theological line of thought, and a summary of the theology that thus emerges, showing how, and perhaps why, it was deployed in this fashion...(Click here to continue reading)

Article 2: "The Shape of Justification"